THE UK GOVERNMENT has warned that the threat of cyber crime is more of a concern than nuclear war.
That alarming statement - or scare tactics, call it what you will - came from a report released today by the UK Home Affairs Select Committee, which claimed that the UK is losing the fight to protect people from cyber criminals, or "e-crime".
"We are not winning the war on online criminal activity. We are being too complacent about these e-wars because the victims are hidden in cyberspace," said committee chair Keith Vaz in the report on e-crime, which arrived after a 10-month inquiry.
"The threat of a cyber attack to the UK is so serious it is marked as a higher threat than a nuclear attack."
Vaz claimed that the UK is the main online target of cyber crime gangs in 25 countries due to the information stored on servers within its critical infrastructure, such as financial data.
According to the committee, the UK's problem seems to stem from a "black hole", where cybercriminals are able to extract information due to a lack of active police enforcement in the country. The committee also noted that cyber crime is not being reported well enough, and instead banks are offering refunds to customers hit by attacks and looking for long-term solutions.
As a result, the committee report called for the creation of a "state of the art espionage response centre". According to the MPs, this centre will help combat the growing tide of cyber attacks targeting industry in Britain.
"We need to establish a state of the art espionage response centre. At the moment the law enforcement response to e-criminals is fractured and half of it is not even being put into the new National Crime Agency," Vaz added.
Vaz said that even with the e-crime strategy and new initiatives, police and government will need the help of technology companies to combat cyber crime.
The MP also echoed prime minister David Cameron's call for internet service providers (ISPs), search engines and social media services to impose automatic online pornography filtering.
"The Prime Minister was right this week to highlight the responsibility of the internet service providers, search engines and social media sites. They are far too laid back about what takes place on their watch and they need to do more to take inappropriate content down. If they do not act, the Government should legislate," Vaz said.
The Home Office report also called for a review on sentencing guidance for e-criminals to ensure that cyber criminals receive the same sentences as real-world crooks, as well as the creation of a foundation focused on reporting and removing online terrorist content.
Web security vendor Websense senior security researcher Carl Leonard said that while the Committee commented on how much low-level internet-based crime is going by unnoticed, it's important that UK businesses don't take their eyes off the ball.
"[They] need to put in place the right defences to protect their employees and their intellectual property," he said. "With low-level cyber crime, it doesn't always get reported because victims only realise they've lost money when it's too late.
"With targeted attacks, these are designed to go unnoticed, so many companies don't even realise they are even happening."
Leonard said that proactive defences against advanced persistent threats, targeted attacks and evolving malware are key so that the UK will be able to protect itself against cyber crime as it strikes in real-time, while simultaneously protecting against data theft.
It's not only in the UK that cyber crime is considered high risk. In April the FBI said cyber crime is fast becoming a threat to surpass terrorism in the US, announcing that it has changed its priorities to focus on cyber security as "a national security threat". µ
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